EI affiliate the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA) has instructed its members to join a general strike.
Tendai Chikowore, the ZIMTA president, issued circulars to all schools advising the 55,000 teachers represented by the union to strike with immediate effect.
The move follows 2 weeks of negotiations between the government and Civil Service Staff Association Apex Council, which represents all government employees.
The teachers join the nation's doctors in striking over pay demands; inflation is running at nearly 1,600 per cent, and food shortages are increasingly widespread with few people still able to afford to eat three meals a day. Students grouped under the Zimbabwe National Students Union are also protesting exorbitant tuition fees.
The government on Friday made an offer of Z$180,000 per month as a basic pay for teachers. The new figures would have meant the highest paid teacher receiving Z$240,000 per month, excluding allowances; far short of the Z$500,000 demanded by ZIMTA and the Z$566,000 poverty datum as identified by the Apex council. At unofficial market rates, Z$500,000 = 66 euros.
It is estimated that up to 80 per cent of the population is out of work, and those who still have jobs often have to walk or cycle to their offices because of fuel shortages.
Members of another teacher union, the PTUZ, have been subject to harassment and imprisonment, promting EI to intervene.
EI firmly believes that teachers should not be forced to live below the poverty line and has sent a message of support to ZIMTA.